Max Verstappen shrugged off pressure as the championship leader insisted it does not matter where he finishes, despite being a win away from claiming the Formula One title.

Verstappen can clinch the F1 title at Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – the Dutchman holds an eight-point lead over defending world champion and Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton with two races to go.

While Verstappen stands on the cusp of glory, Red Bull star Verstappen said his approach would not change.

Hamilton has stated he is "more relaxed than ever", putting pressure on Verstappen, especially after winning the past two races to narrow the margin.

"Like I've done the whole season, there's no change in that," Verstappen, 24, told reporters about his approach in Jeddah for the first Grand Prix at the circuit.

"It's a new track, first of all we need to learn the track and see how that goes in FP1. For the rest, I just focus on the weekend and try to be as competitive as I can be."

Verstappen continued: "It’s just been of course a great year for us. We had a lot of good moments and it's more enjoyable. Last year was pretty boring for me, because basically all the time I was just in third… to be in this title fight to the end I think is very impressive from our side.

"And of course, I'll try to keep enjoying the last two races. It doesn't matter where we end up; we've had a really, really good season as a team."

Verstappen is 12 years younger than Hamilton, who is a seven-time world champion, and admitted that experience plays a part.

However, Verstappen said he has learned a lot since entering F1 in 2015, finishing third overall in both 2019 and 2020.

"I think it's natural of course that when you are in this stage of your career you are better prepared than what you were in your first or second, when Lewis was fighting for his first title," Verstappen said.

"I think it's a natural progression and it's very normal. I also feel much better prepared and more experienced than when I first came into Formula 1.

"No, I don't think that makes a big difference, because otherwise it would have shown already throughout the season."

One of the most memorable Formula One title races in history could be settled this weekend as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton continue their thrilling 2021 battle at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

A high-speed street race in Jeddah will become the 76th circuit to host an event in F1 history and could be the scene of Verstappen being crowned world champion for the first time.

Verstappen takes an eight-point lead to Saudi Arabia and after the event there will only be 26 left up for grabs in the Abu Dhabi season finale.

But it is his in-form title rival Hamilton who will be feeling the best heading to a new venue as he seeks a third consecutive race victory for the first time in 2021.

Hamilton has launched a stunning late-season charge in his bid to win an eighth world title that would take him above Michael Schumacher for the all-time record but still finds himself with little margin for error.

Should Verstappen win the title, it would be the first time a championship has been decided at a debuting circuit since 1981 when Nelson Piquet was crowned in Las Vegas.

There is also a scenario where the two drivers could, fittingly, go into the last race of the season tied.

If Hamilton wins while setting the fastest lap and Verstappen comes second, the top two would be level going into the final event for the first time since 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi did battle against Clay Regazzoni.

It has been an incredibly consistent season for Verstappen, who has nine wins, nine pole positions and finished in the top two for 16 of the 17 races he has finished.

Verstappen could earn a 17th podium in Saudi Arabia that would equal the record jointly held by Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher for the most in a single season.

But victory is all that really matters to both drivers on Sunday, with a brand-new circuit containing 27 corners – the most on the F1 calendar – set to play a huge role in determining the outcome of a dramatic season.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton celebrated consecutive Formula One wins for the first time since May in the first-ever edition of the Qatar Grand Prix.

Verstappen limited the damage despite a five-place grid penalty due to a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying, impressively recovering to finish second.

The Dutchman also took the extra point for the fastest lap, assured of beating Hamilton to that feat due to a late virtual safety car following a series of punctures.

That outcome set up a tantalising final two races of the season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

The two title rivals were joined on the Losail podium by Fernando Alonso, the two-time champion's first top-three finish since 2014.

Valtteri Bottas, running in third, suffered a puncture as he attempted a one-stop strategy and ultimately retired, while Sergio Perez questioned Red Bull's call to bring him in twice as he pursued a podium.

The Mexican could not catch Alonso and had to settle for fourth place, ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN SAUDI ARABIA

With all the momentum behind him, Hamilton goes into the race at Jeddah Corniche Circuit as the favourite for victory, a result which would put the record eighth title within his grasp.

But for Verstappen this event is the first of two opportunities he will have to be crowned world champion. Even a small mistake from either driver at this stage could prove pivotal and the stakes could not be higher.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said their W12 car is performing better than it has been all season ahead of the event, with Red Bull under pressure to bounce back.

The constructors' championship is also up for grabs. Red Bull have closed to within five points of their rivals, while Ferrari are looking to lock up third place ahead of McLaren.

Aside from the championship implications, the debut of the fastest street circuit on the calendar at another new F1 venue should be intriguing.

F1 have revealed average speeds are predicted to be over 155mph with top speeds almost reaching 200mph in what could be a spectacular night race under the lights.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Hamilton history – The Briton has become the F1 driver with the most seasons (eight) that contain at least seven victories, surpassing Schumacher (seven seasons).

Maiden Mercedes – The team have won the race and taken pole position in the last five circuit debuts in F1. As well as in Qatar time out, it also happened in Sochi (2014), Baku (2016), Mugello (2020), Portimao (2020).

Pole position – If Mercedes claim pole it will be their fourth in a row and best run of the season. However, Red Bull have had the better of qualifying this season, as Hamilton and Bottas combined (eight) have fewer poles than Verstappen alone (nine).

Max milestones – Should Verstappen be crowned world champion, he will be the first Dutchman to achieve the feat, the first non-Mercedes driver to do it in the eight hybrid era years and the fourth-youngest in history at 24.

Perez progress – While Verstappen's team-mate will not be thrilled to sit fourth in the standings, he has still collected nine points more in 20 races for Red Bull (190) than his predecessor Alex Albon did in 26 races (181) for the team.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 351.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 343.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 190
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 153

Constructors

1. Mercedes 546.5
2. Red Bull 541.5
3. Ferrari 297.5
4. McLaren 258
5. Alpine 137

Lewis Hamilton is aiming to be the "smarter" driver as he bids to outrun Max Verstappen in a remarkably close Formula One title challenge.

Hamilton is hunting a record seventh world title, but currently trails Verstappen by eight points heading into the final two races of the season.

The 36-year-old has won the last two grands prix, however, having followed up his triumph in Sao Paulo with success in Qatar last weekend.

Hamilton and Verstappen's contest has regularly boiled over onto the track, the former penalised for a collision at Silverstone, while the latter was punished at the Italian Grand Prix and was fortunate to escape a penalty for a near-miss in Brazil.

"Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that's what's going to happen," Hamilton told BBC Sport.

"So you always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because you want to see the end of the race, right? If you're stubborn and you hold your ground, you're going to crash.

"So that's what I've just tried to do. You can't always get it perfect.

"I am not too big or too successful to have to back out to fight another day. I know that is sometimes the route you have to take. You have to be the smarter one.

"And sometimes you lose points in doing that, for sure, but it's not just about me. I have 2,000 people behind me and through that selfish decision I could make. That costs all my team potential bonuses at the end of the year, all the hard work they have to do, the damage of the car. I am conscious of those things also."

Hamilton believes driving, and winning, in as pure a fashion as possible is the best way for him to prove his quality.

"It's just how my dad raised me," said Hamilton. "He said to always do your talking on the track.

"I was bullied as a kid, both at school but also on track, and we wanted to beat them the right way, not by a car falling off or colliding.

"Then, there is no denying that you're better. I want to be the purest of drivers, through speed, through sheer hard work and determination, so there's no denying at the end what I've accomplished."

Of Verstappen's aggressive approach, Hamilton said: "He's not the only driver I've raced against that's like this.

"I've raced so many drivers in my time and they've all been very different in the way they behave. And it's interesting.

"Now I'm older, I look a little bit deeper into their character and a bit of their background, upbringing. Our upbringing is why we act out the way we do and behave the way we do, good or bad. So I try to understand those so I can have more appreciation of who that character is I am racing with."

Lewis Hamilton was "really, really grateful" for a Qatar Grand Prix win that closed the gap at the top to eight points, but Max Verstappen is pleased to be pushed all the way for his first Formula One title.

Hamilton is bidding for a record-breaking eighth championship but has work to do to reel in leader Verstappen.

The Briton followed up his Losail pole with victory on Sunday, although Verstappen recovered from seventh – following a grid penalty – to finish second and take the fastest lap, limiting the damage as much as possible.

It was ultimately a day both men could enjoy, even if Verstappen's penalty meant the only real jeopardy for Hamilton was avoiding the fate of others in the field who saw their tyres punctured.

"It was pretty straightforward. It's pretty lonely at the front," Hamilton said. "Of course, I enjoy those races where you're battling through, but we needed those points today.

"It was a really solid job from the team with pit stops and with the car.

"I can't wait to watch the replay of the race to see what happened behind me. I'm not really sure why people's tyres were going – I'm sure it's the kerbs.

"But I'm really, really grateful for these points. It's been a hell of a year, so to be at this point in the year and have back-to-back wins is a great, great feeling. It puts us in good stead for the next two."

Verstappen added: "Of course our starting position was a bit compromised, but luckily we had a really good start. From there, I was quite quickly back into second.

"At the end of the day, to get that fastest lap was very nice. I know it's going to be difficult to the end, but I think that's nice. It keeps it exciting."

Lewis Hamilton celebrated consecutive Formula One wins for the first time since May as a precious victory at the Qatar Grand Prix moved him to within eight points of Max Verstappen.

The Mercedes superstar followed up his Sao Paulo success with another triumph, although Verstappen limited the damage despite a five-place grid penalty due to a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying.

The championship leader recovered to finish second and also took the extra point for the fastest lap, assured of beating Hamilton to that feat due to a late virtual safety car following a series of punctures.

The two title rivals were joined on the podium by Fernando Alonso, the two-time champion's first top-three finish since 2014.

Both he and pole man Hamilton enjoyed strong starts, although Verstappen wasted little time in wiping out his penalty.

Starting from seventh, the Dutchman gained three places from the start but was then shut out by Alonso, who passed Pierre Gasly into second.

Verstappen stayed on Gasly's tail and eased past on lap four before quickly hunting down Alonso, yet Hamilton had already disappeared into the distance.

Hamilton continued to stretch his advantage out towards 10 seconds before Verstappen pitted and the Mercedes man immediately responded, following him in to maintain the lead.

That gap closed very slightly as Hamilton worked his way through the backmarkers, but drama was limited at the front until Valtteri Bottas, running in third, suffered a puncture as he attempted a one-stop strategy.

That was the first of several such issues, meaning Verstappen took no risks and pitted a second time soon after, with Hamilton again heading in on the next lap.

Sergio Perez questioned Red Bull's call to bring him in twice as he pursued a podium, and it was a move that ultimately did not pay off as he failed to reel in Alonso due to the virtual safety car.

BOTTAS BLOW ADVISES STRATEGY

Mercedes expected a two-stop from Verstappen, so promised Bottas there would be "opportunities" if he went longer and took care of his tyres. Unfortunately, that strategy failed.

Bottas, who qualified in third, was penalised to sixth and then fell to 11th, had recovered to third place on lap 36 when he sustained a puncture and was forced to limp back to the pit, ruled out of contention entirely as he re-emerged in 14th. He later retired, just as Williams pair George Russell and Nicholas Latifi each also suffered punctures to the same front-left tyres.

Perez might have been less than impressed, but the single stops proved a huge gamble.

ADD LOSAIL TO LEWIS' LIST

Hamilton already held the record for poles (30 of 34) and wins (29 of 34) at the most different circuits and added to both tallies at the first ever Qatar Grand Prix.

Alonso also enjoyed his Losail bow, collecting points at the 34th of 34 tracks in real style.

Formula One title leader Max Verstappen was handed a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix after a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying.

The Red Bull driver was due to start second in Lusail behind Lewis Hamilton, but he instead started from seventh as a gripping title race took another twist.

Verstappen had been under investigation, along with Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, for not slowing down under yellow flags near the end of Saturday's qualifying session after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture on the pit straight.

The stewards confirmed the Dutchman's grid drop around 90 minutes before Sunday's race, while Bottas was docked three places to put him sixth due to his breach being under single waved flags.

Sainz avoided punishment as he "made a significant reduction in speed".

Explaining the decision to penalise Verstappen, a statement released by F1 ahead of the race read: "Notwithstanding the fact the team argued that the turning off of the yellow sector on the FIA marshalling system some 34 second prior to the driver reaching the yellow flag, signified that it was 'play on', it was the driver's responsibility to take the appropriate action when entering what was a double yellow flag area.

"The driver acknowledged his awareness of the presence of Car 10 on the right side of the track.

"Having seen a disabled car, it is reasonable to expect, as was the case of the driver of Car 55 [Carlos Sainz], that there was a potential danger and that a yellow flag situation probably existed and therefore to take the appropriate action (i.e. to reduce speed)."

Verstappen leads Hamitlon by 14 points in the standings.

Max Verstappen heads into Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix well off the pace of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes and under investigation by the stewards, with the fallout over the title rivals' battle in Brazil refusing to die down.

Verstappen is under investigation for refusing to slow down under waved yellow flags in qualifying.

The world championship leader has been summoned to the stewards having apparently failed to respond to single waved yellows on his final lap after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture on the pit straight.

If found guilty, he will likely face a grid penalty having qualified second behind Hamilton, who set a blistering time of 1:20.827.

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas (third) and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz (seventh) are also under investigation for the same offence.

Qualifying came after an elongated drivers briefing that lasted over an hour as they sought clarification over what represents fair driving following the tussle between Verstappen and Hamilton in Sao Paulo, which saw the latter forced off track as they fought for the lead.

Asked if the FIA had succeeded in clarifying the issue, Verstappen told the drivers' media conference: "I think it's always trying to align everyone in having the same process in the way you think, everyone.

"Everyone is different, right? And everybody I think has their own way of racing and defending and overtaking, and of course very hard for the FIA as well to, how do you say it? To get everyone on the same line.

"Of course, they decide but every driver has a different opinion. And I think yesterday [Friday] it was all about sharing their opinions, and then the FIA explaining their process of thought behind it. So, I think we came a long way, and it was a very long briefing. So, yeah, I think at the end it was pretty clear."

Hamilton, though, had a very different view.

"It's not clear. Every driver, except for Max, was asking just for clarity, most drivers were asking for clarity, but it wasn't very clear," he said. 

"So, yeah, it's still not clear what the limits of the track are. It's clearly not the white line anymore, when overtaking but… yeah, we just go for it. We just ask for consistency. So, if it's the same as the last race then it should be the same for all of us in those scenarios and it's fine."

With victory, Hamilton could trim Verstappen's lead to seven points were the Dutchman to finish second, and he has every reason for confidence with his Mercedes taking pole by a gap that surprised even himself.

"Probably the last three races in qualifying we have been ahead of them, which has been a bit of a surprise," added Hamilton. 

"Today definitely wasn't expecting to have as big a gap as that. I looked, I was relatively comfortable and was around tenth or so ahead throughout the session, but to be able to pull out that extra time felt great and it's a great showing of the hard work, all the guys, as I said we were here until midnight last night. The guys were here even later than that. Really great work from everyone.

"Long-run pace is good. We always end up getting closer… or our pace closes up to each other when it comes to race pace and yeah, I think the car is in a good place. It's a difficult circuit to follow so, yeah, I'm looking forward to the start."

Max Verstappen conceded Red Bull are struggling for pace after a "beautiful" lap from Lewis Hamilton saw the Mercedes driver take pole for the Qatar Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who cut Verstappen's lead in the drivers' championship to 14 points with his victory in Sao Paulo last time out, was quickest on Saturday with a blistering lap of 1:20.827.

Verstappen could not get close to that and was left to settle for second for the first Formula One race in Qatar, the Dutchman finishing 0.455 seconds off the pace.

Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes, with Red Bull's setback of Verstappen being unable to get ahead of Hamilton on the grid exacerbated by Sergio Perez failing to make it out of Q2.

Perez will start in 11th, meaning it is Hamilton who has a clear edge going into another crucial race.

Speaking after qualifying, Verstappen said: "[We're] lacking a bit of pace, it's been just a bit more tricky for us, again, in qualifying.

"It just shows we're struggling a bit more than normal. All to play for, but I wish we could have fought for more.

"There's a lot of unknowns, we just need to work on our start and we'll see where we end up."

The difference between Hamilton and Verstappen marked the largest pole margin in dry qualifying this year, with things looking up for the seven-time world champion after a challenging week.

"Yesterday was a really difficult day, Thursday and Friday I wasn't feeling too well, really had to dig deep," said Hamilton.

"I was here until midnight last night, working with the engineers, we found a lot of areas where I could improve. 

"We didn't have any traffic, that last lap was beautiful, this track is amazing to drive.

"I felt fantastic today, slept really well last night, that made a big difference."

Asked about strategy for the race, Hamilton added: "It's not the easiest of circuits to follow, but it's also not massively degrading on the tyres.

"It could be a one or two [stop], we'll find out tomorrow. It's nice and wide into turn one, so we'll be giving everything."


PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.455s
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.651s
4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.813s
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.843s
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.904s
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1.013s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.054s
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.201s
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.958s

Mercedes have failed with an appeal over an incident involving Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix last weekend.

Verstappen forced Formula One title rival Hamilton off the track in Brazil last week in defending his position at the front of the race.

The race stewards "noted" the incident while the race was ongoing, but did not see any reason to penalise Red Bull's championship leader.

Hamilton went on to win the race, reducing the Dutchman's lead to 14 points with three races to go.

The Silver Arrows on Tuesday revealed they had asked for the stewards to take another look at the incident on the basis of "new evidence" from onboard camera footage.

It was confirmed on Friday Verstappen will not face any punishment after the stewards rejected the appeal.

The stewards explained: "There will always be some angles of video footage, because of limits in both technology and bandwidth, that are unavailable at the time.

"Whether or not stewards' decisions are considered to be right or wrong, and just as with referees' decisions in soccer, it does not seem desirable to be able to review any or all such in‐race discretionary decisions up to two weeks after the fact and the stewards therefore seriously doubt that the intent of the Right of Review in the ISC [International Sporting Code] is to enable competitors to seek a review of such discretionary decisions that do not follow on from a formal inquiry by the stewards and do not result in a published document."

Although the stewards agreed Mercedes had provided new and relevant evidence, they disagreed that it was "significant" in this case.

Their statement said: "The stewards often must make a decision quickly and on a limited set of information. At the time of the decision, the stewards felt they had sufficient information to make a decision, which subsequently broadly aligned with the immediate post‐race comments of both drivers involved.

"Had they felt that the forward‐facing camera video from Car 33 [Verstappen] was crucial in order to take a decision, they would simply have placed the incident under investigation – to be investigated after the race – and rendered a decision after this video was available. They saw no need to do so."

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were the subject of stewards' enquiries in Brazil, the latter handed his second penalty of the week due to a DRS issue.

The verdict was announced after Verstappen was fastest in the first practice session at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen did not appear concerned on Thursday by a looming decision over Mercedes' attempt to have an incident at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix reviewed.

Verstappen forced Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton off the track in Brazil last week in defending his position at the front of the race.

That was initially deemed a fair move, and Hamilton eventually passed the championship leader anyway, cutting the gap at the top to 14 points with a precious win.

But Mercedes subsequently appealed for the incident to be reviewed again on the basis of "new evidence".

The FIA has said stewards will announce whether the clash will be fully re-examined on Friday ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, teeing up another nervous wait.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were the subject of stewards' enquiries in Brazil, the latter handed his second penalty of the week due to a DRS issue.

But Dutchman Verstappen is not letting this latest controversy worry him ahead of a potentially pivotal grand prix.

"Listen, if it would have been the other way around in Brazil, it would have exactly played out like that," he told Sky Sports.

"It's hard racing. We are fighting for a championship; we are not here to be in a kindergarten."

Hamilton said: "I'm just putting all my energy to setting up the car and making sure I'm in the right headspace this weekend."

Formula One technical director Ross Brawn believes the sprint qualifying race at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix was the best yet ahead of an expansion of the format in 2022.

A dramatic race weekend in Brazil saw Max Verstappen top qualifying on Friday, Valtteri Bottas win the sprint event to claim pole position on Saturday, before Lewis Hamilton triumphed in a thrilling main event on Sunday.

Hamilton had started the sprint at the back of the grid and charged all the way up to fifth to improve his grid position for the main race, which he ultimately battled to win from 10th after a grid penalty.

His move up the field was the highlight of an entertaining sprint that had more fireworks than the previous two held in 2021 at Monza and Silverstone.

The sprint schedule also leads to more meaningful action on the Friday, when qualifying takes place rather than the normal practice sessions.

"Saturday's F1 Sprint was, in my view, the best one of the three," Brawn wrote in his column for the F1 website. "It had plenty of action, with loads of battles – including Lewis carving his way through the field. 

"It was a great Saturday afternoon of entertainment, an appetiser for the main course on Sunday.

"We had a fabulous Friday, too, with a dramatic qualifying session. It can never be underestimated how much of an impact the Sprint has on a Friday.

"With only one hour of practice, it creates some jeopardy heading into the rest of the weekend, as the teams are not as prepared as they can be."

Brawn has previously revealed F1 plans to double the number of sprint race weekends to six in 2022 and are pondering some small but significant changes.

Presently points are only awarded to the top three drivers in the sprint but that could be increased to the top 10 to align with the main race and encourage more daring overtakes further down the field.

New cars that promote overtaking are already coming in for next year, while Brawn has accepted that the formal award of pole position should come after Friday qualifying rather than for the Saturday sprint.

He added on Wednesday: "We think the foundations are very strong for the Sprint and will be presenting more details of our plans for six events in 2022 in the coming weeks in discussions with the FIA and the teams.

"There are things we need to tweak but Brazil showed the Sprint is a great addition to the weekend. 

"It has made Friday, Saturday and Sunday big moments that are exciting for all of us."

There are three races to go in the F1 season, with Verstappen leading Hamilton by 14 points going into the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this week, with the constructors' championship also finely poised.

"We're seeing a titanic battle for this year's two championships," added Brawn.

"The race in Brazil was just another twist in an engrossing tale. It’s been fantastic. No one knows what will happen next.

"We have got two new venues to visit in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, before heading to the finale in Abu Dhabi where the circuit has had a series of modifications. The stage is set."

Lewis Hamilton will continue his late push to keep his crown as Formula One world champion at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this week.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has three races left in his quest to deny Red Bull rival Max Verstappen glory.

Verstappen leads the championship by 14 points, a lead that was reduced by Hamilton's memorable win at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton started the sprint qualifying race at the back of the grid and then the main event on Sunday in 10th on the grid, sitting 21 points adrift.

Damage limitation would have been a reasonable aim, but instead Hamilton turned the tables with a famous win that hauled him back into contention.

A tense and thrilling title race has also proven controversial, with Mercedes this week requesting a review of the decision not to take any action against Verstappen for an incident involving the pair in Brazil.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff branded Verstappen's defence while Hamilton attempted to pass him as "over the line", but Red Bull boss Christian Horner saw nothing untoward.

Verstappen still has the precious lead that means he has the title race in his hands. The Dutchman knows he will be world champion if he wins the next two races while also setting the fastest lap.

In a remarkable year, he has finished in the top two for 15 of his 16 finished grands prix this year.

But a surging Hamilton - looking for a record eighth championship that will see him surpass Michael Schumacher - will not relinquish his title without an almighty scrap, and a night race at Losail Circuit will provide the latest twist.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton claimed a crucial win with a magnificent performance in Brazil.

Verstappen had extended his lead in the title race on Saturday to 21 when he finished second behind Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the sprint qualifying race.

Hamilton had his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the Saturday sprint in last, but impressively charged up from 20th to fifth.

A five-place grid penalty meant he still had to start back in 10th for the main event on Sunday, yet the reigning world champion delivered, gaining eight places within the early exchanges before, at the third attempt and after the controversial moment, he overtook Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.

Poleman Bottas had been unable to keep control of the race after Verstappen and Sergio Perez nipped ahead to make it a Red Bull one-two early on, but Hamilton ensured it was Mercedes' weekend as he cut the Dutchman's lead in the championship.

Bottas ultimately took third, with Perez settling for fourth as well as a point for the fastest lap which stopped Hamilton from making further gains on Verstappen. Charles Leclerc was the best of the rest in fifth for Ferrari.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN QATAR

A new circuit means there is no past form for teams or drivers to look back on, but Hamilton goes into the week as favourite for victory on the back of his Brazil brilliance.

The Briton has won five of the last seven GPs raced in Arabian Peninsula, most recently this year in Bahrain when he won despite Verstappen starting from pole.

This will be Hamilton's 35th different circuit – he has won at 29 of the previous 34 he has appeared at during his F1 career and taken pole at 30 of them.

As well as the thrilling battle in the drivers' standings, Mercedes are now 11 points clear of Red Bull in a race for constructors' glory that looks poised to go down to the wire.

McLaren, meanwhile, have fallen to 31.5 behind Ferrari in the battle to finish third as they continue to lose momentum, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo in need of a morale-boosting result in Qatar.

After this race, the Qatar Grand Prix will move to a new purpose-built circuit from 2023 as part of a 10-year contract for the event.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

F1 history - Losail in Qatar will be the 75th circuit to host an F1 race, the 11th in the Asia and the third in the Arabian Peninsula after Sakhir in Bahrain and Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton thrives - In Brazil, Hamilton become the F1 driver to win the most races in the Americas (18) and the Briton will now be looking to be the driver to win the most races in the continent of Asia, surpassing Sebastian Vettel (28).

Masterful Max - Verstappen comes to this contest after equalling the tally of podiums (57) earned by Nico Rosberg, the last person other than Hamilton to win the title. The Dutchman is six points away from being the eighth F1 driver to surpass the 1,500 mark.

Three in a row? - Mercedes have taken the pole position in the last two qualifying sessions (both by Bottas in Mexico and Brazil) and are now looking to equal their best run this season, the three taken between Emilia Romagna and Spain (Hamilton x2 and Bottas).

900 up - McLaren will become the second team to reach 900 GPs in F1 after Ferrari (1,027). The British team appeared for the first time in Monaco 1966 with only one driver, Bruce McLaren, who failed to finish that race. This year they are the only team to have recorded a one-two finish (in Monza).

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers 

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 332.5 
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 318.5 
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 178
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 151

Constructors 

1. Mercedes 521.5 
2. Red Bull 510.5 
3. Ferrari 287.5 
4. McLaren 256
5. Alpine 112

Mercedes have requested a review of the decision not to take any action against Max Verstappen for an incident involving Lewis Hamilton during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Hamilton and Verstappen went off track when the Brit tried to pass the Red Bull driver and move into the lead at Turn 4 on lap 48 of the race on Sunday.

The stewards "noted" the incident, but did not see any reason to penalise the Dutchman.

Hamilton went on to win the race, reducing Verstappen's lead in an enthralling Formula One title race to 14 points with three races to go.

The Silver Arrows on Tuesday revealed they have asked for the stewards to take another look at the incident on the basis of "new evidence."

A short statement from the team read: "The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team confirms that we have today requested a Right of Review under Article 14.1.1 of the International Sporting Code, in relation to the Turn 4 incident between Car 44 and Car 33 on lap 48 of the Brazilian Grand prix, on the basis of new evidence unavailable to the stewards at the time of their decision."

F1 confirmed that the stewards will now meet with representatives from the team to assess the new evidence.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff branded Verstappen's defence as "over the line", but Red Bull boss Christian Horner saw nothing untoward.

He said: "Penalty for what? I mean, there's no advantage gained, there's no contact been made, so… I think it's just hard racing between the two of them.

"And yes, I think that the stewards actually made the right decision on that. We've talked about this many, many times, about the 'let them race' mentality. I think they made the right call today.

"It's two guys running hard. Lewis has got a run around the outside, Max has gone in deep, they've both gone wide. It would have been really unfair to penalise on that. If it had been the other way round, I'd have told my sporting director to have a moan about it, but I wouldn't have expected to get anything from it.

"You want to see the guys going hard at it. You know with Max, he's going to race hard, Lewis is exactly the same. That's two guys fighting for a world championship so it's going to be tough racing. I think it was fair, there was no contact, and they rejoined and recommenced it a few laps later."

Lewis Hamilton acknowledged his stunning fightback victory at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix felt as good as his first in Formula One.

The Mercedes driver saw his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the sprint race in last, but went from 20th to fifth, only for a five-place grid penalty to mean he started 10th on Sunday.

However, the Briton delivered a memorable win, gaining eight places early on and overtaking Max Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.

The reigning world champion cut Verstappen's lead in the battle for the title to 14 points with three races to go.

"It feels like a first as I haven't had a win for a long time," Hamilton said.

"I never thought we would close the gap like we did today when things just seemed to be going against us.

"It just shows you should never give up whatever you are facing. You need to keep pushing, keep tumbling and never ever stop fighting. That's what I have done this weekend.

"The team did an amazing job and Valtteri Bottas did a great job to [finish third and] get as many points as possible.

"I just pushed as fast as I could, but from last on the grid and another five-place penalty this is my hardest weekend I have had [this season]."

Hamilton has now won 17 races in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the United States, two in Brazil and two in Mexico).

It means he overtakes the legendary Michael Schumacher as the driver with the most F1 victories across the four nations.

He dedicated the victory to his father Anthony and to the Brazilian fans who supported him at Interlagos.

He added: "My dad reminded me of when I was in F3 in Bahrain around 2004, when I started last and finished first - so this one is for my dad.

"I am so grateful for the incredible support I have had this weekend. I have not had this much support since Silverstone, and since then it has been really difficult.

"To hear these fans throughout the weekend has been humbling. I have been saying 'obrigado Brasil' because I am so grateful."

Next up is the Qatar Grand Prix and Red Bull driver Verstappen vowed to finish the campaign strongly as he eyes his first F1 title.

He said: "We tried everything we could today, it was a good battle but at the end we missed a little pace. But it was good fun.

"We still have a decent lead so today was a bit of damage limitation. I'm confident, in the coming races we will come back stronger."

Lewis Hamilton claimed a crucial win in his bid to clinch the Formula One championship with a magnificent performance at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Verstappen had extended his lead in the title race on Saturday when he finished second behind Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the sprint qualifying race.

Hamilton had his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the sprint race in last, but went from 20th to fifth, only for a five-place grid penalty to mean he started 10th on Sunday.

Yet the reigning world champion delivered a memorable win, gaining eight places within the early exchanges before, at the third attempt, he overtook Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.

Verstappen and Sergio Perez had nipped ahead to make it a Red Bull one-two early on, with Bottas unable to keep control of the race, but Hamilton ensured it was Mercedes' weekend.

The safety car was deployed early on, with Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll colliding, while Lando Norris sustained a puncture on the first lap and was forced to pit immediately.

Hamilton had made a brilliant start, however, and his charge up the track saw him catch leader Verstappen on the 48th lap.

Verstappen did not open up space at turn four, forcing Hamilton wide, with both cars going off the track before straightening up with the Red Bull retaining its lead.

To Mercedes' frustration, the incident was noted by stewards, but not investigated. Hamilton tried again 10 laps later, yet again found his path blocked by Verstappen, who weaved on the straight.

It only delayed the inevitable, however, as Hamilton made it third time lucky when he finally got beyond his title rival ahead of turn four on lap 59.

Verstappen's frustration was compounded by a penalty for his weaving a lap previous, though Perez did at least collect the fastest lap to take a point away from Hamilton, with Bottas rounding off the podium.

DID VERSTAPPEN GET LUCKY?

It was an almighty tussle between the title rivals on turn four at lap 48, with Verstappen just managing to hold onto his advantage.

Hamilton, who labelled the incident "crazy", was sure there had been an infringement, but with it unclear as to whether Verstappen had driven his counterpart off the track, the FIA decided not to investigate, much to Mercedes' chagrin.

HISTORY FOR HAMILTON

Hamilton has now won 17 races in the Americas (seven in Canada, six in the United States, two in Brazil and two in Mexico).

It means he overtakes the legendary Michael Schumacher as the driver with the most F1 victories across the four nations.

Page 1 of 10
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.